I am sick of TV reviewers being mean about Mary Berry. When the first half of The Mary Berry Story aired last week, it got mean-spirited reviews in the Guardian and the Telegraph, all because the journalists had decided Mary Berry hadn’t had a sufficiently interesting life to be worth their attention.
I keep finding this problem with reviews of foodie TV shows. Apparently, food TV is boring and samey. But for people like you and me, who love food and taste and baking and being creative with it, it’s anything but. The Mary Berry Story was not just an insight into the life of a much-loved personality, it was a ride through British food TV and journalism history, from the kitsch 1970s to the twee Great British Bake-Off present day.
People who love baking but are unmoved by, say, trains, or property development, are not about to find programmes like this boring. So maybe TV reviewers should bear us in mind.
I made Mary Berry’s own millionaires’ shortbread last week, from my copy of Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, which is rapidly becoming my favourite book ever. It went down a storm with the family (and with me – I took it down to London in a tin and ended up eating a shocking amount of it on the train).
Anyway it’s a success, and pretty foolproof if you do as Mary says, which you always should. Next time I make it though, I might try to make the base a bit crumblier – maybe cooking it for less time, or using darker sugar? I’ll report back.
for the shortbread
250g plain flour
75g caster sugar
175g softened butter
for the caramel
100g light muscovado sugar
two 397g cans condensed milk
for the topping
400g chocolate (NB this is double Mary’s quantity, because you’re already doing yourself a serious dietary mischief with this bake, so why not go the whole way?)
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease a biggish swiss roll tin (Mary suggests 33 x 23 cm), or use baking parchment tucked into one of those disposable foil roasting tins like I did.
To make the shortbread, rub in the butter with your fingertips, into the flour and caster sugar. When it looks like fine breadcrumbs and all the butter has disappeared, smoosh it all together so it forms a roughly doughy ball. Don’t panic if it seems a bit too crumbly to smoosh together. This just means your shortbread will be extra short (a good thing).
Press it into your tin so it fills all the corners. Prick it all over with a fork and then bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let it cool in the tin.
Caramel time. Put the butter, sugar and condensed milk into a saucepan and heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring it CONSTANTLY, and then reduce the heat and keep stirring for about five minutes until the mixture has thickened and looks, well, like caramel. I set a timer. Mary warns (and I underline her warning) that you must stir the mixture continuously, because if you stop for even a second it will catch on the bottom of the pan and burn.
Pour it over the shortbread base, spreading it into all the corners. Leave to cool.
Break your chocolate into pieces and melt it slowly in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring every now and then. Pour over the caramel and leave to set.
When I first started cutting my nicely set millionaires’ shortbread, I cut it into big doorstop chunks. This was an error. It wants to be cut into little bitesize squares, a couple of inches across (see top pic), so people can absent-mindedly pop ten of them with a cup of tea while reading a book, which is exactly how treats are meant to be enjoyed.